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Get up and move! Exercise linked to lower cancer risk

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(Photo from Pexels)

Feb. 4 is World Cancer Day.

Recently, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel issued a statement regarding the benefit of exercise for lowering cancer risk.

Three studies looked at the role exercise can play in lowering cancer risk, as well as improving survival for those diagnosed with cancer.

Researchers found an association between physical activity and a reduced risk for seven common cancers -- breast, kidney, endometrial, bladder, stomach, and esophageal.

They also found exercise was beneficial for survival among those who diagnosed with breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers.

Dr. Dale Shepard, an oncologist at Cleveland Clinic, said he often recommends physical activity, when possible, to patients who are dealing with cancer.

“The message here is stay active,” he said. “Make sure you increase your activity. Do whatever you can -- ideally, that would be 2-3 times a week, for about 30 minutes at a time - but, do whatever you can. We know that it can decrease the risk of several cancers, we know in people who have cancer it can actually improve survival too.”

Shepard said not only does physical activity improve fatigue, but those who remain active while facing cancer tend to have less anxiety and depression and report a better quality of life.

“I tell people whatever you can do, just do it - get out, be active,” he said. “But don’t let the recommendations for how much exercise to perform each week serve as a barrier. If you can only do a little bit, do whatever you can do. Stay active.”

Shepard said experts don’t yet know why exercise has a benefit for cancer risk reduction, but the hope is that if they can figure out why, continued research will help develop new and better ways to prevent these cancers.

Complete results of the studies can be found in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, and CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.